This Film Is Not Yet Rated

The documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated has made a number of reviewers go weak in the knees (83% on the Tomatometer). It's about the MPAA's movie-rating system; filmmaker Kirby Dick despises it, and his film is a broadside against it.

Since libertarians are concerned about all that First Amendment and censorship stuff to an above-average degree, you might think libertarian-oriented websites would embrace Dick's movie. Not so, Tonto! Adam Thierer at the Technology Liberation Front sat through the film and, as near as I can tell, just got madder and madder as it went along.

Although Adam (at least vaguely) can see merit in one of Dick's points that excessively violent movies should be rated comparably to those with explicit sex …

The rest of it is just a tedious and baseless screed against the MPAA's rating system based on the preposterous notion that private ratings are somehow tantamount to censorship. Indeed, what is most frustrating about the documentary is Dick's absolute refusal to seriously discuss whether or not this voluntary ratings system — warts and all — is actually worse than real government censorship. Moreover, he doesn't bother seriously debating the deterrent effect of the MPAA's ratings system, which many argue has helped deter government efforts to regulate movie content. Dick interviews a few experts in the film who suggest that this fear has been overblown and, amazingly, one of them even argues that he thinks a government-based ratings system would be better because it would supposedly be more transparent and film makers would get a fairer hearing.

It's interesting to see these kinds of fissures between (what I'll call for lack of a better term) thoughtful and thoughtless libertarians. Adam, one of the former, reveals Dick as one of the latter.

Last Modified 2012-10-19 2:44 PM EDT